Storytelling is an ageless staple of Barbados’ folklore and elsewhere. Certainly, a case can be made that its presence may have to do with Barbados’ connections to West Africa, where griots – advisors to court, story-tellers, musicians and praise-singers – are routinely acknowledged and play a major role in family and community effort.
Perhaps, it was therefore no surprise that recently, when a group of friends got together to break bread with Edward “Eddie” Haynes, who came to Brooklyn to attend a family function, without any prompting, the informal tête-à-tête became a storytelling affair. Stories of life experiences, including knowledge of and connections with popular ‘street’ characters, including Dr Bostic and Horace Reds among others and everyday happenstances in Carrington village and The City where members of the group lived flowed.
Perhaps Haynes, a former senior administrator with American Airlines in Barbados and Crop Over band leader, created the setting as he greeted friends that he had not seen in many years.
“Wow. This is a time capsule, a back-in-time capsule. I have not seen Mackie, in years. Right now I feel I am back in Barbados,” said Haynes. He did more. He shared a post-retirement tale – an experience that occurred while working part-time from home for Best Buy.
Haynes: “Best Buy, this is David speaking, how can I help you?”
Customer: “Can I speak to someone else, I want someone who speaks English?”
Haynes: “I am sorry, I am speaking English. Can I get you someone with a different accent?”
Customer: “No, I want someone who speaks English.”
Haynes also contrasted other experiences he had with customers with an Indian background, who he said, responded differently, and talked about cricket when they discovered he was Barbadian.
That said, while one may see Haynes’ experience with language as funny, two organizations, both headquartered in Jonesborough, Tennessee view storytelling as the language art that pre-dates written history and reportedly sought to revive American storytelling with a first National Storytelling Festival in 1973. This first festival led to the founding of the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling (NAPPS). Today, both not-for-profit organizations are dedicated to advancing the art of storytelling – as a performing art, teaching aid, and cultural transformation process. They are also working to improve the quality of storytelling at all levels in entertainment venues, classrooms and libraries.
The Tennessee organizations’ view of storytelling as language is not unique. In an article published December 5, 2017, based on an extensive scientific study by Nature Communication, Jeffrey Klugger posited that tales and stories not only teach us about friendship, cooperation, empathy and an aversion to inequality, but as the study shows, they are a powerful means of fostering social cooperation and teaching social norms. They pay valuable dividends to the storytellers themselves, in particular, by improving their chances of being chosen as social partners, receiving community support and even having healthy offspring.
Clearly, this formal view was not present when Peter Clarke, Mackie Grazette, Euston Stuart and Michael Tudor informally got together with Edward Haynes. Still, a formal look at story telling in Barbados has significant value.
Walter Edey, a former Science educator, and author, believes that Structural Thinking is the “Thought Technology” and wave of the future.